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Hayley Berlent: From Master’s Student to Entrepreneur

Hayley Berlent (’04SPS, Strategic Communication) is Founder and CEO of The Additive Agency, a brand transformation consultancy that helps organizations amplify their impact. Growing up in South Africa, she observed social injustice firsthand and witnessed the ways in which positive social change occurred. Her childhood experiences inspired the foundation and purpose of the agency.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Columbia?

A: I decided to go to Columbia because I actually worked there. I worked in public affairs at Columbia Law School for several years, and while I was there, I was deciding whether to pursue an MPA at the School of International and Public Affairs or try this program, which was brand new at the time. it was 2002 and I was part of the inaugural class. The idea of being a pioneer, as part of the inaugural class, was exciting to me. That's why I selected both Columbia and the program.

Q: How did your background influence your experiences?

A: I think growing up in South Africa and seeing social injustice first hand, and also seeing how a shared purpose and a common goal can transcend injustices and challenges absolutely shapes who I am and what I do in the world. Columbia helped illuminate all the ways in which I could craft that story, to drive people to take action.

Q: How has what you learned and studied at Columbia translated to The Additive Agency?

A: One of the most powerful things about the Strategic Communication degree at the School of Professional Studies is that it's taught by real-world practitioners. It is one where you can learn and apply in real time—insights that move businesses and brands. When I transitioned from public affairs to branding, I was able to enter into a consulting environment and give counsel right away. I learned how to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategic plan: how to implement it, how to activate it, and how to think about costs and resources. It was very tangible.